Understanding Organizational Culture

This blog post is an excerpt from our recent course created in partnership with Red Hat, A New Paradigm for Change in Government Leadership. To access the full online course, head here

To truly understand how to move forward with organizational change, we must first understand organizational culture.

Think of organizational culture as “how an organization conducts itself internally and externally”—its ethos, values, and frameworks. Organizational culture includes core values, expectations for behavior, decision-making models, and leadership structures. It also influences organizational norms—for example, how information flows in an organization, or how one is allowed or expected to express oneself in the organization.

To benefit from digital transformation and meet mission need, agencies must evolve how they are organized culturally. This will help them change not only how they operate internally, but also how they interact with others, like constituents and other external stakeholders. Continuing to focus only on technological efforts (like digitization) won’t lead to success and sustainability.

As a leader, your primary directive is organizational change. The benefits of your technologies will emerge naturally when the architecture of your organization is designed on a scale of openness to support structure, process, decision making, relationship building, resource allocation, and even incentives.

You must also remember this: Changing your organization’s culture often means making adjustments to some frequently overlooked areas, including the following:

  • Policies and governance: Governance in this area means that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined; there is accountability; designated leaders are empowered; and standards are transparent and improved based on best practices.
  • Processes across the entire ecosystem: It’s critical for consistency and transparency that an organization has established and communicated repeatable processes, which help to ensure that employees are measuring the same thing, managing expectations, and delivering what was promised.
  • Decision-making models: The manner in which decisions are made and adapted should be clearly organized, documented and understood by all levels in the company.
  • Sourcing feedback: Does your organization feature multiple channels and methods for receiving feedback to accommodate people’s preferences?
  • Talent acquisition and hiring practices: Does your organization allow for cross-collaboration efforts in your teams to keep talent interested. Are you inclusive in your talent sourcing?

Understanding all that: Where do you begin? How do you know what needs to change in your organizational culture?

We’ll walk you through a process for better understanding your organization’s culture—and assessing its health—in the rest of the lessons in the course, which you can access here.


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